22 July 2011

Legislative fervor - not an issue of right vs left

In the ongoing saga of idiotic legislation activities the authors of one of such ill-conceived babies: the proposal to probe Israeli NGOs remained with a stillborn cadaver on their sweaty hands.

The bill fell short by a large margin – 57 to 28 – due to the opposition of Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin as well as Likud ministers Gideon Sa’ar, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, Yuval Steinitz, Moshe Kahlon, and Bennie Begin.
Good. As for the grieving father and mother of that baby: Likud MK Danny Dannon and Yisrael Beiteinu MK Faina Kirschenbaum: I am confident that this worthy tandem will produce new babies of the kind in the near future. At least this time, unlike the one with the BDS supporters bill (more about it later), common sense and sanity prevailed.

If you like our legislators, don't cry for that one: many more are on the way, and another one is already in the oven, so to speak:
A Justice Ministry memorandum could empower courts to order Internet service providers to disclose the identity of online commenters accused of defamation or copyright violations.
Of course, the precise definition of the term "defamation" is not forthcoming as part of the deal, and why should it? If this idea gets accepted, we are on a slippery road. Who knows whether a commenter who falsely accuses a VIP of theft or rape will be treated differently from one who declares another (or same) VIP a moron (frequently with good justification)?

In regard of the BDS bill I have to mention a post by Isi Leibler Confronting BDS from home that I took an exception to. Isi starts it with:
I am somewhat unhappy with the anti-boycott law - and not because the hysterical far Left screams that it undermines Israeli democracy. I am concerned that if it is not adequately comprehended, it enables demonizers of the Jewish state to pose as bogus martyrs in the cause of freedom of expression.
First of all, let's take the sweeping statement according to which it's only the "hysterical far Left" that objects to that law. Yours truly, hardly expected to sympathize with the extreme left (or extreme right) objects to that law too, and so do many other Israelis that don't have time for any extremes.

And the reason for this is fairly simple: unlike the statement by Isi that "The new legislation has no bearing on freedom of speech", I am confident that freedom of speech is the only kind of freedom affected by the BDS law. Anyone can read the text of the bill and see for him/herself that the only "activity" that causes the breach of this law is:

Knowingly publishing a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel

Now, the point where (in my opinion) Isi has gone wrong is the confusion between BDS as harmful activity (which both Isi and I deplore and fight against) and verbal support for such activity that fully falls under the freedom of speech guarantee of immunity.

As for Isi's dismissive remark re the freedom of expression without limits that in his opinion is a fetish: this is a thorny issue, treated differently in different countries, but I wouldn't dismiss it that lightly. Indeed, freedom of speech for hatred-inciting Nazis is grating, but once we start limiting this freedom - where does the train stop? On a personal level, to use one example: I would gladly spit in David Irving's mug had I an opportunity, but I was against his incarceration by Austrians (one of the examples of countries that limit freedom of speech).

Freedom of speech is an absolute imperative, precisely as prohibition of torture - you can't take a bite out of that cake and keep it whole. You can't limit the freedom of speech of a Nazi vermin and then cry "wolf" when someone proposes to curb the freedom of expression for Communists, ultra-nationalists, fundamentalists etc. We all know where it starts, but no one can predict where it stops, in short...

I would agree with Isi when he states "We should therefore dismiss the hypocritical calls for freedom of expression from those whose primary raison d’être is to undermine the Jewish state." However, we should listen to the numerous voices of our friends who are concerned with this attack on the freedom of speech that is only one step on the road to perdition that is being busily built by various "activists" in out Knesset.

And the current coalition, in its limitless wisdom, is busy indeed. Just a few weeks ago someone clever enough shot down a bill proposed by MK Yaakov Katz that would have punished people insulting a public figure (of course, MK Katz knows only too well why he wants this bill).

And what about the infamous loyalty pledge?  And how about the brilliant idea of our minister of transport Israel Katz to eliminate Arabic names from road signs? Can't Isi see a dangerous trend here?

Now back to the left-right issue. I am not surprised by hysterical outcry from the Far Left: it only makes sense, with right wingers being in charge of the country now. Of course, various left wing factions are protesting: sometimes with reason and sometimes without. These days they are frequently justified. I know Isi would agree with me that the current coalition includes some unsavory elements of the ultra-right that must be held in check. And that many of the laws are proposed by these same elements. I know from the past experience that when the left gets the reins in this country, the legislative activism doesn't suddenly abate. It just changes direction. Thus legislative fervor in general should be regarded with a great deal of suspicion. And what is better to hold ultra-right in check than extra-left?

I wish, though, for more legislative effort - in the right direction. In a country without constitution, without some elementary laws (one should alwaysremember the embarrassing episode when it was discovered that we don't have any law in place against neo-Nazi activities - it was just considered useless...), we could do better with real lawmaking, instead of production of petty bills expressing our righteous indignation against real and imaginary offenses.

Otherwise we'll all be (and some think that we already are) in big trouble.


jams o donnell said...

They are pretty stupid bils indeed. I would have thought there wee other more pressing issues to deal with

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Uhu... absolutely.

Pisa said...

I'd change Isi's phrase - "<span>We should therefore dismiss the hypocritical calls for freedom of expression from those whose primary raison d’être is to undermine the (Jewish state) freedom of expression.</span>"

The main reason I oppose those bills is that they bring us down to our enemies'  sub-level. Boycotting the boycotters - what does this make us? Uhm...boycotters? Becoming what we oppose is not exactly my cup of tea.

The far-left would destroy this country. The far-right would destroy everything that makes it worth living in this country. Therefore we must fight with teeth and claws against any bill that might tip the balance of power to either side.

It's unsettling how both sides scream "democracy" when their prerogatives are under attack. Could it be the same democracy they both try so hard to cage? Brings to mind the image of a wolf in a McDonald's lecturing the customers about the virtues of vegetarianism. Freedom of speech until you get the whole cow.

SnoopyTheGoon said...